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Alcoholism is a dependency that often goes undiagnosed and untreated for a variety of reasons. In fact, alcohol is the most commonly abused psycho-addictive drug worldwide as an estimated 14 million Americans meet the clinical criteria for alcoholism. Unlike opiates or other illegal substances, alcohol is readily available, legal and highly commercialized.
Only 5% of individuals with Alcohol Dependence ever experience severe complications of withdrawal (e.g., delirium, grand mal seizures). However, repeated intake of high doses of alcohol can affect nearly every organ system, especially the gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, and the central and peripheral nervous system. Gastrointestinal effects include gastritis, stomach or duodenal ulcers, and, in about 15% of those who use alcohol heavily, liver cirrhosis and pancreatitis. There is also an increased rate of cancer of the esophagus, stomach, and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as high risk for heart disease and low-grade hypertension. Severe alcohol intoxication also contributes to feelings of sadness and irritability, which contribute to some instances of suicide.
Alcohol use is so widely acceptable that it can be difficult to determine whether or not one has a problem. Paradoxically, alcoholism is so stigmatized that asking for help or getting help presents huge obstacles. If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol dependency, please don’t hesitate to call the Fifth Avenue Psychiatry for a confidential consultation.
Alcohol abuse can be of particular concern for women because their addiction can be more stigmatized and therefore more hidden and isolated. Because of physiological differences in stature, body fat percentage and metabolic rate, women generally retain a higher blood alcohol level than men from the same amount of drinks.
Alcohol Dependence paradoxically has one of the most dangerous withdrawal syndromes. Early stages of alcohol withdrawal include the shakes, or jitteriness in the hands, sweating, nausea, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. Alcohol withdrawal must be treated medically. A common treatment regimen includes treatment with a long-acting benzodiazepine like Librium or Klonopin. Later stages of withdrawal may last for weeks or months. This is called Protracted Withdrawal and it can occur with stoppage of any addiction. Protracted withdrawal from alcohol dependence can be experienced as ongoing insomnia, difficulty concentrating, intense craving for alcohol and in some cases can cause an over-exciteable state. These symptoms can also be treated with medications if necessary like Campral, or cognitive behavioral therapy.
At Fifth Avenue Psychiatry, we understand the difficulty in admitting alcohol dependency and in maintaining treatment. Dr. Glazer’s treatment uses a combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods that are customized for maximum efficacy. An outpatient detox can be arranged using medication. Addiction treatment is then focused on the individual, using psychotherapy, relapse prevention and office-based treatment.